By Brion Hoban
A father-of-two who failed to pay over €120,000 in tax has received a fully suspended sentence.
Mark Aspland (59) failed to remit VAT in the period between 2010 and 2016.
During this time he submitted invoices to clients bearing the VAT number of a company that had ceased to be registered for VAT in 2008.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that he had failed to register for VAT as a sole trader during this period.
Aspland of Westbourne Lodge, Templeogue, pleaded guilty to counts of failing to submit a VAT return and failing to remit VAT during taxable periods between July 2010 and August 2016.
He has previous convictions for failing to file income tax returns and speeding.
Passing sentence today, Judge Pauline Codd said Aspland began to “bury his head in the sand” in regard to his finances and this “spiralled out of control”.
Judge Codd said that although a report from the Probation Service was “largely positive”, the accused demonstrated a “limited awareness” of the effect of his offending on Revenue and other taxpayers. She said he has been assessed as being at a low-risk of reoffending.
She said that revenue fraud was not a victimless crime.
She noted that the accused had better opportunities than many who come before the court, yet he decided to “cheat the system”.
Judge Codd sentenced Aspland to two years imprisonment, but suspended the sentence in its entirety for three years on strict conditions, including that he make payments of €800 a month for the duration of the suspension.
She also ordered that he pay the entirety of a pension fund to Revenue by the end of April of next year. The court heard this fund is valued at approximately €37,000.
Revenue Officer Aoife Hanley told Kieran Kelly BL, prosecuting, that matters came to light in 2016 when another revenue officer was carrying out a review of VAT returns of another company and requested further documentation.
Officer Hanley said the officer received three VAT inclusive invoices issued by Spectrum Computers Services Ltd, of which Aspland was a director.
The VAT number displayed on the invoices was the company number, but was invalid as it had ceased to be VAT registered in 2008.
The other company had engaged the services of Spectrum in 2009 through Aspland and had made payments by electronic fund transfer into Aspland’s personal bank account.
He issued them invoices listing his home address and phone number, but had never registered for VAT as a sole trader.
No VAT returns of remittances were received between July 2010 and August 2016.
A total amount of €121,897.27 was owed to Revenue as a result, with a further €91,697.42 owed in interest.
The court heard that more than €25,000 has since been paid by Aspland and that he had requested that he be allowed to repay €800 a month, but this offer has not yet been accepted by Revenue.
Officer Hanley agreed with David Staunton BL, defending, that his client’s previous conviction for failing to make income tax returns relate to the same period of time following the ceasing of Spectrum and his client operating as a sole trader.
Mr Staunton said his client was originally from New Zealand, but has been living in Ireland since 1991. He said his client is married and has two children.
Counsel said his client was travelling extensively for work at the time of the offences and was suffering from a “quite serious” gambling addiction.
He said his client had a dis-organised lifestyle and rather than seeking to address the matter, he simply ignored what the consequences would inevitably be. Mr Staunton said his client will have access to a pension fund in February of next year.